Rights sheet vs deportation of migrant sex workers launched for #1DayWithoutUs.
Stop deportations of EEA sex workers.
Police have stepped up threats against sex workers who are from EEA countries and, unless we protest, the situation is likely to get worse as immigrant people are further scapegoated post Brexit.
Women are being given letters by police telling them that sex work is not a legitimate job and that therefore they are not exercising their treaty rights and are liable for deportation. Sex workers are also told that they are economically inactive – a particular insult considering that women are picked up whilst working to earn money to support families back home. See press report here.
Legal rulings that can be used to counter removals are:
- The Upper Tribunal has confirmed that EEA nationals who are self-employed for even as little as three to four hours per week have a right to reside in the UK. See here.
- The Court of Justice of the European Union established that sex work performed on a self-employed basis must be treated as ‘self-employment’ (Case C-268/99 Jany & Ors (External relations), 2001). See here.
The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) has published a rights sheet here and stopped a number of removals. The ECP asked Legal Action for Women, a grassroots legal service based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, to provide letters which women can carry and use to resist attempts to remove them. A few women have left the UK voluntarily and are now worried about being stopped at the airport coming back.
Hounding sex workers in this way is putting lives at risk. Women are being forced to work in less well-lit, more isolated places to avoid being picked up by police. One woman was threatened by a well-known local gang. She reported to police that a man tried to strangle her but they did nothing and told her to go home. We have been trying for months to get a face-to-face meeting with the police, via her local MP, so that she can report this attack. (She has photos, names and a licence plate of her attacker). She wants assurances that she will be protected from reprisals and won’t be targeted for arrest.
Women Against Rape commented, ‘Migrant sex workers are being deterred from reporting sexual violence from clients or other men, for fear of deportation. They are doubly vulnerable now, with the rise in xenophobic attacks since the Brexit vote.’
What you can do
- Publicize this injustice and distribute the ECP rights sheet: see different languages here
- Translate our deportations right sheet. English here
- Write to your local MP and councillor protesting this policy and asking them to instruct the police to prioritise the protection of women over deportation (see template letter below).
We are appealing for lawyers to help including to be on stand-by to advise if women call from the airport. Please contact ECP at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7482 2496, @ProstitutesColl if you can help.
Dear NAME MP [find your MP],
Having lived in [name of constituency] for […], I have recently been made aware that sex workers who are EEA nationals working in [your borough] are at risk of being stopped on the street, raided, detained and threatened with ‘administrative removal’ (essentially, deportation) from the UK. This appears to have got worse since the Brexit vote which has fuelled racism against immigrant people.
The arrests, raids and removals are being justified by claims that sex work ”is not seen as a legitimate job in the UK.” This is contrary to: the Upper Tribunal decision which confirmed that EEA nationals who are self-employed for even as little as three to four hours per week have a right to reside in the UK; the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling that sex work performed on a self-employed basis must be treated as ‘self-employment’ (see Case C-268/99 Jany & Ors (External relations), 2001).
I am concerned that under this policy women are being targeted, deported, criminalised and made more vulnerable to violence. Many have lived in the UK for years and are earning money on which many people depend for survival. I believe that Romanian and other Eastern European migrants, whom this policy disproportionately affects, make an important contribution to the UK which should be valued.
Could you please say whether you are aware that sex workers are being targeted by police and immigration in this way? Could you please also ask the police in your area to justify their actions? As my representative in Parliament, I’d further like to ask you to raise my concerns about this practice that targets vulnerable women with the Home Secretary, in Parliament and with the relevant committees .